Despite what the government and car manufacturers would like you to believe, the fact is that global warming is really here. One thing that will slow down the Gulf Stream, the powerful ocean current that brings warm water (and weather) to the UK and the rest of Europe, is dilution of the ocean?s salt level, due to an influx of freshwater from melting glaciers and ice sheets. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts,which is keeping an eye on this phenomenon, says that large regions of the North Atlantic Ocean have been growing fresher since the late 1960s, due to melting glaciers and increased precipitation, both associated with greenhouse warming. Salinity records show that large pulses of extra sea ice and fresh water from the Arctic have flowed into the North Atlantic.
In a recent paper published in Science magazine, Ruth Curry of Woods Hole, along with Cecilie Mauritzen of the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, figured out for the first exactly time how much additional fresh water has flowed into the North Atlantic Ocean, how fast it entered the Atlantic circulation, and where that fresh water was stored in frozen form in the past.
The team says the most striking event in their study occurred in the early 1970s and is known as the ?Great Salinity Anomaly.? During the late 1960s, a large amount of fresh water suddenly entered the Nordic Seas and moved quickly southward.
Excessive amounts of freshwater will alter the ocean density that drives a portion of the ocean circulation system, diminishing the amount of heat that is transported northward. This is already happening. Curry says, ?The Greenland ice sheet represents a wild card. There is an enormous amount of freshwater tied up there, which, as it melts, will affect the headwaters of the ocean conveyor.?
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, independent marine research organization located in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Although WHOI supplies information to the government, it is not a government agency, so it is not afraid to report the truth. Its primary mission is to understand the oceans and their interaction with Earth.
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